I am sick in a way that I have not been sick in a long time. I’m the typical only-go-to-the-doctor-if-dying-kind-of-stubborn-crabbby-old-male. And I went to the doctor today. Which should tell you something about how sick I am.
How sick am I? Glad you asked. I appreciate your concern.
I have fever that has been fluctuating somewhere between 99 and 104° for the last 4 days. Mostly between 98.9°, which is practically 99° and 99.8°, which is between here and 104°. I’m telling the truth, but when I’m sick I tend to exaggerate, or hallucinate, or fabricate; whichever is the result of extreme high fever on the brain for too long.
I have a nose that might as well not exist for it’s intended purpose. There is nothing but slime in these nostrils, and if the Good Lord had not given me a mouth for use as a backup breathing hole, I would have suffocated two days ago.
I’m sure I learned in 10th grade Biology how all these little air holes in the human head are connected, but honestly, I haven’t thought about it all that much until this past weekend. What I now know is that if your nose passages are packed to the hilt up behind your eyeballs with muck, your mouth is your best option for staying alive. But when the remedy includes eating chicken noodle soup, and you have to close your mouth, the air in your mouth with the soup has to go somewhere when you swallow. These passages are designed to allow the food to go down the gullet and the air escape up through the nose.
But, I remind you. The nose in this example is full. No air is getting in or out. The resulting pressure build up upon swallowing bulges your eyeballs and ear drums, also connected here, until your head explodes and you hear ringing in your ears for 4 hours. All of this from eating soup and trying to get better.
When I was but a wee laddy, me Mum would take care of me. Sorry, my fever just spiked to 99.2°. I was hearing strange dialects in my head.
My Mama had two remedies for about anything that ailed a young boy. And they were not pleasant. They were half intended to make sure I was serious about being sick, and half meant to kill me if I was.
“I don’t feel good.” It’s 6:00 AM on a school morning. The bus is 20 minutes away.
“Here, take a spoonful of this Paregoric. It tastes a little like anti-freeze with rat poison mixed in. You’ll either get better or die.”
If I stepped up to take it, she might back off and go get the thermometer and ask a few more questions. If I backed away, she put me on the bus.
The other remedy was the dreaded Enema. Since there may be small children reading this, I’ll not go into details that might cause them to live with nightmares for the rest of their lives.
But, if you’re about 8 years old and your stomach is hurting, and an adult parent comes at you with a rubber bag full of warm water, a long hose with a little pointy end on it shinning with Vaseline . . . run for your life. It’s not a tub toy. It’s a torture device intended to bloat your gut and blast those little bad microbes right out your backside. It’s not pretty.
“What you need is a good cleaning out,” she said with a sinister twist to her face.
The parents of my day were their own kind of doctors. They thought that if they could clean you out from one end or the other, it had to be good for you. When I had poison ivy, Mama would walk out to the hill behind the garden and pull a bucket of leaves off the peach trees. She boiled them and laid them all over the affected parts of my body until I looked like a Witch Doctor had visited my bedroom.
The good news is that my wife genuinely cares about me. I’m generally not a bad sick patient, but even I know the last few days have not been easy. She takes my temperature when I ask every 15 minutes. She brings me a box of Kleenex tissues, which I am going through at a supersonic rate. Our trash can should be one of those sealable bio-hazard waste cans that goes to the incinerator when full.
She is the reason I am getting through this. There is a glass of water always fresh beside me. She looks concerned when I whimper. I mean when I start uncontrollably hacking up a lung. She has brought me blankets, drugs, and comfort in all shapes and ways.
Yesterday was Sunday. It was a big day for our little church. Lots of guest speakers. People doing mission work all over the world. And all of it concluding with a big ole’ fellowship meal, which you already know I love. And I couldn’t go. I don’t miss many Sundays, but the big day and the big meal was not happening for me this time.
I knew that Beth had been preparing Shrimp and Grits to take on Sunday. Which made my condition even worse because I love her Shrimp and Grits. Lots of butter and cheese. The old slow cook grits, not the instant kind. Bacon fried up and crumbled in the mix. It was killing me to miss it.
I was on the couch trying to read between hacks. She was busy getting stuff loaded up in the car. She came around the corner.
“You need anything before I go?”
Sniffle. “Naw. I’ll be fine. You enjoy. Tell folks I said hello.” Hack. Hack.
“By the way. I put a bowl of shrimp and grits in the fridge for you. Maybe you’ll feel like eating something later.”
Suddenly, the sun came out. The birds sang. And I knew I would make it. I love that woman. She hasn’t once offered me Paregoric.